Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great Words From The Great One / Sutter Talks Iggy

Wayne Gretzky and Yours Truly
I can’t lie to you.  Even as a lifelong Calgary Flames fan I was really, really looking forward to today.

After all, it’s not every day that The Great One visits your city… especially when your city is Red Deer.

Wayne Gretzky had the crowd in the palm of his hand this morning at the 10th annual RDC Kings and Queens Scholarship Breakfast.  Over 1,400 people came out to Westerner Park to hear Wayne share stories on stage with his former St. Louis Blues teammate, Kelly Chase [who is very entertaining in his own right].

We in the local media weren’t scheduled to have any time to speak with Mr. Gretzky.  But as he left the stage to head back to his meet and greet, Wayne took a few moments to speak with the group of us who had assembled, eagerly hoping to get a few words from #99.  Here’s the jist from that media scrum…

His thoughts on education…

“I tell everybody, as I tell my own children, you’ve got to go to school and you’ve got to have an education.  I was fortunate enough that my education was being a professional hockey player.  But, for most people, the right route to go is to make sure you finish high school and go to college and it’ll make you a better person.”

On speaking at events such as this…

“I love hockey.  People want to hear stories and, obviously in this area [Red Deer], about the Edmonton Oilers and for Team Canada things like that.  It’s easy for me to come and enjoy myself and talk the game of hockey.  I could talk hockey all day long.  We’ve had a wonderful time.”

On the importance of grass roots sports…

“My dad, who is really a smart person, always said sports are great for kids because first and foremost it keeps kids busy and it keeps them out of trouble.  In sports, you learn so much about life.  You learn how to work hard.  You learn how to dedicate yourself.  You learn how to be a teammate and you learn how to become unselfish.  Whether you’re a great player or you’re an average player, team sports are always wonderful for kids.  I’m a big believer that every child should get an opportunity to participate."

On the Jarome Iginla trade…

“Let me tell you, it’s hard.  It’s not easy, especially with a guy like Jarome who is beloved in Calgary.  He’s been a big part of their community, their organization, and the city so it’s a little bit of a culture shock once he leaves.  But once he gets into it, looking down that bench [in Pittsburgh] and seeing Crosby and Malkin will make life pretty good for him.  That’s a hard thing that Calgary had to do.  It was probably hard for Jarome to say ‘OK, I’m moving on’ but at the end of the day I’m sure people are happy for Jarome.  He’s got an opportunity to play with Crosby and win a Stanley Cup.  He’s always going to be a part of the community in Calgary and hopefully the Flames got some good young players that will help their franchise over the next ten years.”

On the similarities between Jarome’s situation and his in Edmonton [in 1988]…

“I never imagined ever not being an Edmonton Oiler.  People kinda figured that Jarome would be a lifetimer in the City of Calgary.  But, listen, it’s the business side of sports.  It’s probably gonna be a good deal for the Calgary Flames, probably gonna end up being a good deal for Jarome.  Unfortanetly, the people who suffer are the real, true fans which is just the way sports is."

On the return of men’s hockey to RDC…

“It’s exciting.  As Kelly Chase said, one of the greatest coaches in hockey, Mike Babcock, is from here and was part of this town.  It’s wonderful, good for them.  As you see here, it’s a great community, great sports town.  I used to come here when I was an Oiler.  We practiced here a few times as a team so it’s always enjoyable to come here. “

On his memories of Red Deer…

“I always remember that half the city wears blue and half the city wears red.”

Some words of encouragement for fans of the current Edmonton Oilers...

“I really like their team.  Those young guys are going to be great hockey players.  They are in the right situation in the right city.  The fans are going to be patient with them, they saw us go through it as young guys.  It’s going to be a really good team but it’s gonna take some time.  They’re young guys right now.”

On how often he laces up the skates these days…

“Once a year.  Every year, I skate for about four days and every year when I’m done those four days I go ‘You know what, I really enjoyed this.  I’m gonna start playing a little bit more.  And every year I put my hockey equipment back in the garage and I get it the next year when I go back to my hockey camp.  It’s the greatest game in the world.  I got a chance to play in the NHL with, and against, the greatest players, but I’m not very good anymore.  So maybe the passion, because I’m not as good as I used to be, has gone out of me a little bit.  My love for the game is still there.  I wish I could still play but I’m unfortunately not as good as I used to be.”

On a possible return to the NHL…

“I dunno.  Never is a long time but I don’t see it on the horizon.  When I was a player, I was really selfish and put everything I had into the game.  Now I’m selfish in that I put everything I have into my family.  I love the game.  I think the players today are better than we were.  It’s a wonderful game.  It’s fun to watch and I’m a fan.”

[ My buddy Rene over at has the full video from today’s Gretzky scrum posted on his website.  The AUDIO is posted on my soundcloud page.]

** After the media scrum had concluded, I ran into a friend of mine (who I shall keep anonymous) who was holding an extra ticket to the meet and greet with Gretzky.  He sheepishly asked if I knew of anyone who would want it.  I sheepishly told him that I could probably find a guy.  And with that, I was fortunate enough to have my own photo taken with Wayne Gretzky today.  Hooray!


Brent Sutter, who coached Jarome Iginla and the Flames for three seasons, also weighed in on last night’s trade.  Here’s what he had to say when I spoke with him in his office this afternoon…

“That’s hockey.  You never know what’s going to happen.  

It’s kinda sad.  You’ve got a franchise player that’s meant so much to the Calgary Flames in Jarome and things just never worked out, outside of one year, to build a contending team around him.  In the last few years it’s obviously been trying times there.  The team just wasn’t good enough.  Our goal was just to get into the playoffs for three years and that’s a tough thing to do.  To be honest, we did a lot of good things just to finish 9th or 10th.  Unfortunately, it catches up to you as an organization and it caught up to the Flames. 

They have to move a franchise player out and that’s a tough thing.  

I feel bad for the owners, I feel bad for people inside the organization, and I feel bad for Jarome, too, because you hate to see that happen.  You’d like to see him finish his career there and his sweater hung from the rafters.  Unfortunately, when things don’t pan out the way everyone would have liked, this kind of stuff happens.  It’s a business and it happens and the organization will move forward, as will Jarome. 

Is he the player he once was?  No, he isn’t.  Yet he can still be a very important part to a hockey team.  He’s not a young man anymore but he still brings quite a bit to the table.  It’s certainly an ingredient that Pittsburgh obviously wanted to add to their team and the Flames are obviously doing some retooling to hopefully get the team to where it needs to be able to compete, not just to make the playoffs, but to be a talented, competitive team in the National Hockey League.”


I also chatted with Sutter, as well as Mathew Dumba, about the Rebels four game sweep of Prince Albert in the opening round of WHL Playoffs. 

You can hear those interviews by clicking on the following links to my soundcloud page... 




Have a safe and happy Easter Long Weekend, everyone!


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